Deal or no Deal=Summit Meetings on the Korean Peninsula= > News

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overseas | Deal or no Deal=Summit Meetings on the Korean Peninsula=

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작성자 편집국 작성일18-03-31 14:36 댓글0건


Deal or no Deal

=Summit Meetings on the Korean Peninsula=


By Moon J. Pak


The year 2018 is an epochal year for the Korean peninsula and for South and North Koreans, and Koreans overseas.  The drama began with a historical address by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in January during which he proposed a joint effort by two Koreas to represent Korea at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The address was eloquent, conciliatory and timely, as most of his past formal addresses or speeches have been.


The proposal was accepted with warm appreciation by South Korean President Moon Jae In who had pursued this agreement over time and through a variety of international channels. The efforts of Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee were also instrumental in clearing a path for a joint Korean effort at the Games.


Clearly, Kim’s offer of participation in the international sporting event was significant on many levels. In addition to athletes, cheer leaders, and musicians, the North Korean leader sent the formal head of state and his own sister Kim Yo Jong, widely regarded as a second-in-command leader. Yo Jong carried a personal letter from her brother to President Moon, in which he proposed a summit meeting.  A high-level North Korean delegation also attended the closing ceremony, and both sides used the occasion to communicate their willingness to move forward with the summit.


Following the Olympics, a formal South Korean delegation, composed of the high-level security officials flew to Pyongyang to meet directly with Kim. The leader offered to meet with Moon in April at a Peace House located south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). He also made another surprising indication; his willingness to meet with the President Donald Trump to discuss the international issues between the two countries including denuclearization, without any preconditions.


Immediately upon return from Pyongyang, the delegation was sent to the White House by President Moon, where President Trump accepted the invitation and unconventionally asked the South Korean delegation to make the announcement directly to the White House press corps. Thus was born the possibility of a summit to discuss peace, within a month of the exchange of threats about “fire and fury.”  


This dizzying pace of diplomatic development, between the U.S. and the two Koreas makes one wonder if we are headed toward a deal.  On the other hand, there may be no deal. 


Three leaders at a place and a time


It is a near serendipity that these three leaders will share the space of time and place on Korean peninsula; Moon, a bright, liberal, human rights lawyer made president in a sweeping people’s democratic wave, the “November Revolution” in South Korea; Trump, a bright, unpredictable, intuitive deal maker, wreaking havoc in White House; and Kim, a young leader, assumed to be a dull dictator, who is instead emerging as a person of flexibility and vision.


In Kim, there is a solid leader of a nuclear power, who will maintain his power for almost half a century while the other two will be out of their position within the next seven years or so.  


When Kim was first made leader of North Korea after the death of his father Kim Jong Il, he was in his late 20s. In his society, maturity is regarded as an essential in a leader. At first, Kim took steps to solidify his leadership among his family, where almost everybody else is older. He then had to deal with the same issue in the military. The military’s power is regarded as synonymous with the nation, and by policy has top priority in the nation.  He has achieved success in this process through skillful reorganizations, forced retirements, and a few purges. The next step was the control of the Labor Party, which happened smoothly since North Koreans strongly believe in the succession from father to son, and he is the grandson of Kim Il Sung, the creator of the Party.


The Kim agenda


Kim has established new objectives for the nation in the last six years, including bolstering the economy and the legitimacy of his regime in the international community. He has especially directed his attention to North Korea’s neighboring countries as well as the U.S. Achieving these objectives are key in establishing himself as the new DPRK leader.


North Korea is about the size of state of Pennsylvania, with 25 million people, and  its GDP only about $30 billion.  This is about a 30th of the GDP of South Korea.  To maintain its 1.25 million military, a defense budget equal to about 25 percent of the GDP is required.  Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, North Korea has been placed in a state of severe isolation by the U.S., accomplished through embargos and sanctions. When there is an incident between North Korea and the U.S. or South Korea, the U.S. threatens a nuclear attack.


Kim Jong Un, as well as his father and grandfather have driven the nation toward nuclear capability.  They think of it as a negotiating tool with which North Korea can be recognized as an equal and a respectable negotiating partner by the U.S. and South with the goals of normalizing international relationship and economic partnership.


This conviction on the part of the North Korean leadership led by Kim led to and resulted in the frantic nuclear testing and missile firing activities over the past two years. To the surprise of the world, this resulted in the successful development of a hydrogen bomb and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) named the Hwasung 15, capable of reaching the continental U.S.


Add ingredients and stir


There was a link between this achievement and Kim’s actions in early 2018 to propose a joint effort by the two Koreas, and eventually the plans for two summit meetings.  The meetings are looking more like a chemistry experiment. We know the ingredients, but do we know what will happen when we put them all together? 


The first summit is being viewed with optimism. It will be held in the latter part of April, at the “Peace House” located in the DMZ in Panmunjom, between Moon and Kim. The content of the meeting will include many conciliatory offers from both sides. There will be many people-to-people exchange ideas, many mutually beneficial economic exchange ideas. Many ideas that were agreed upon at past summit meetings (June 2000 and October 2007) will be realized. However, many of the agreements made between Moon and Kim will require U.S. approval, because of the enmity and sanctions existing between the U.S. and North Korea. The two summits may require a tri-party follow-up meeting including Kim, Moon and Trump.


It is much harder to guess at the outcome of the second summit, between Trump and Kim, tentatively set for late May, in a location to be determined. However, the agenda items are not so difficult to guess at. The first and most obvious one will be, without doubt the issue of denuclearization. The idea of “peninsular denuclearization” will be discussed, as will the diplomatic normalization of the U.S.-North Korea relationship.


In 1953, the U.S. Allied Forces, North Korea and China signed an Armistice Treaty to end the fighting, which was supposed to be followed in a few months by a peace treaty. The peace treaty never happened. The summit will undoubtedly include the long-awaited formalization and finalization of the 1953 Armistice Treaty at Panmunjom.  These talks will need to go well beyond the establishment of a formal diplomatic relationship because it must include cessation of sanctions, embargos, and other types of financial and trade restraint designed to isolate North Korea. There will be some implications on implementation on the bilateral Moon-Kim agreements made in April.


Deal or no deal?


Given the unpredictability of Trump’s personality, as well as the constant shifting of his White House staff, it is difficult to predict the outcome of the second summit.  The most recent staff shift is particularly concerning. It included Trump’s appointment of two hawkish and anti-DPRK leaders; John Bolton as national security advisor and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State.  


However, all sides recognize the critical importance of emergence of North Korea as a nuclear power. All have seen Kim’s surprising openness, willingness and flexibility in pushing for the meetings. Given that, and given the crucial importance of peace in this region, it is likely that the two summits will succeed and that Trump will play a unique historical role in building peace in this region. Such peace would realize the dreams of 75 million Koreans, in north, south and overseas. 


After peace breaks out, we could see a new Pyeongyang-based economic miracle, a “miracle in the Daedong River,” that will give North Koreans prosperity as well as peace.



=The End=


(Korean Quarterly, VOL.22, NUM.1, Spring, 2018)


Moon J. Pak, M.D., Ph.D. is a physician in the Detroit -area, and serves as the senior vice-president of the Korean American National Coordinating Council (KANCC), a national organization that works for understanding between the U.S. and North Korea and facilitates academic and cultural exchanges between America and North Korea.

[이 게시물은 편집국님에 의해 2018-03-31 14:38:09 새 소식에서 복사 됨]
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